A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

A post-apocalyptic world rebels against the knowledge that destroyed it, then rebuilds the future only to make the same mistakes again. This book is philosophy thinly disguised as sci-fi rather than a riveting tale of a post-nuclear world.

Despite Miller writing a novel full of claims/beliefs I don’t agree with, I still enjoyed this introspective novel. So take the following with the fact that I did like this book in mind: Miller puts everything in terms of science vs. the church, yet he does provide logical reasoning in addition to Christian for many of the morals and lessons he promotes (even if I don’t agree with some of his stances—such as anti-assisted death for the chronically ill), so there is no reason for this black and white opposition. I also had a hard time with Miller’s overall claim that it is moral-less/God-less scientists behind all wars and that somehow the church is above and beyond it all/knows better. HA! Really, Mr. Miller? No war has ever had anything to do with religion? Religion stands peacefully by while the secularists have at it? If you say so…

My arguments against Miller aside, he presents a desolate and cyclical view of humanity’s future without destroying a sense of hope. His image of a dry and dying world is still somehow beautiful, and he elegantly uses sci-fi and this novel to provide life, body and background for philosophy.

Pure by Julianna Baggott

I shouldn’t have read this book right after completing A Canticle for Leibowitz. Two nuclear(ish) post-apocalyptic tales, yet one is a serious philosophical exploration while the other is a chaotic young adult novel. This was a fun enough book, but I feel like Baggott wanted to write too many books/ideas. This somehow ends up being postapocalyptic, dystopian, steampunk and more, and so many concepts in one novel are overwhelming. And pointing out that your plot is far-fetched doesn’t make it okay to have a plot that is far-fetched. I would have preferred a streamlined, focused (and therefore probably more logical and plotted) version of this book

Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Lindqvist writes a stunningly disturbing book and does it through the eyes of young teenage girls. The fact that he can write from this viewpoint is testament enough to his skills as a writer, but the way he handles the disillusionment and loneliness of being an early teen girl is masterful. His taste in and use of gore didn’t leave me with any complaints, either.

My only criticism would be that this book peaks after the first few chapters and then there is a long, hard slog until you reach the crescendo. While this builds a strong psychological base for the story, so much graphic action early in the novel left me dissatisfied with the then relatively calm middle chunk of this book.

However if you have a taste for a well-written, psychologically-disturbing and stomach-churning book, you are in luck–Lindqvist has produced just that.

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

While I’m all for a rambling descent into madness, this particular rambling descent just didn’t capture my attention. I didn’t care about Francie, his situation or the people around him. His fixations didn’t help illustrate his crumbling hold on sanity, they were just a bored repetition of the same thoughts over and over and over again. Nothing about this book was engaging, it certainly wasn’t “funny” as multiple reviews/blurbs promised and the “shocking” end just wasn’t shocking by the time you’d slogged through most of the book to get there.